Minnesotans–that is you and I–have 256,000 acres of right of way along 12,000 miles of trunk highway that provide habitat for monarchs and other pollinators and nesting birds such as pheasants. The right of ways also allow wildlife to travel.
While enforcement hasn’t been great, a 1980’s law designed to protect the habitat value of the right of ways says that right of ways can’t be mowed except in the month of August.
HF 124, now waiting a final vote on the House floor, allows farmers and other individuals to mow the entire right of way at any time of year and sell the hay or keep it for themselves. To make it crystal clear that the Minnesota Department of Transportation cannot determine how right of ways are to be managed for safety or public benefit, HF 124 prohibits MnDOT from requiring a permit to mow.
MnDOT is strongly opposed to HF124. The Farm Bureau, MN Farmers Union and the Cattleman’s Association strongly support it.
Another bill on a fast tract gives farmers who irrigate rights to water that no one else has. One would not be wrong to ask, what’s next?
The author of HF 124 says that there are other opportunities and public funding for developing habitat.
That’s true. Governor Dayton is working to find $150,000,000 to match $350,000,000 federal dollars for permanent conservation easements. This $500,000,000 program will put easements on an estimated 60,000 acres or less than a quarter of the 256,000 acres of right of way that we already have.